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THE ART OF GETTING OUT OF POWER         237

incompetent. Of the thousands of officials who have received this
special favour, do we ever see one who is energetic or has established a
good record for himself? On the other hand, those who prey upon the
rTpeople are numberless. Everywhere they go, the people are victimised.
How this can be referred to as a 'special grace', I do not understand."
Su suggested cutting out these special exemptions and putting a strict
limitation upon the sons and relatives of high officials and upon persons
recommended by the imperial household.

Su Tungpo considered it his duty to inform the Empress of the sloth
and incompetence and downright deceit of government officials in cases
which had been carefully concealed from the court. And here began a
number of letters which he sent confidentiallv to the Empress. In many
cases he added one or several postscripts, begging her to keep the
memorandum to herself for his own protection and not have it passed
to the premier's office.

There was, for example, the case of a raid by the north-western tribes,
during which probably ten thousand Chinese peasants were slaughtered.
The military commander had tried to conceal this from the court. Even
when the news seeped through to the capital and a commissioner had
been sent out to investigate, the latter, following the ancient practice of
"officials protecting officials", reported that only "a dozen people" had
been killed. The commissioner, thus minimising the disaster, had
'asked that the commander first be pardoned and the case slowly investi-
gated. Two years had elapsed, and nothing was done about it. The
villagers to whom compensation was due were thus deprived of their
benefit* In his private letter to the Empress, Su Tungpo pointed out
that such neglect of the people was not calculated to win their good
will towards the government.

The practice of "officials protecting officials" naturallv resulted in
"officials versus the people". Again, there was the case of Tuns: Cheng,
a commander in Kwangtung who massacred several thousand citizens
of a recaptured city in his futile effort to fight certain bandits- But the
report to the government by fellow officials made out that he was in fact
a hero, defending the city successfully against the bandits. There was
the case, too, of Wen Kao, who killed nineteen civilians and escaped
with a small demerit. A certain minor army officer, in his desire to
claim credit for killing bandits, went into a familv*s home and mur-
dered five or six women in broad daylight. With their severed heads,
he reported that he had beheaded a number of bandits. The case was
too outrageous to be covered up, and when the court ordered an investi-
gation, the officer's defence was that at the time of the action he could
not tell whether the victims were men or women. Such were the cases
of misrule which existed, and about which Su Tungpo found it
i impossible to keep silent.